Equipment

10 Best Core Exercises With Bands (+ Sample Workout)

10 best core exercises with bands

If you’re looking to take your core training to the next level to improve your stability, get stronger in compound movements, or build a great physique, then incorporating bands into your workout routine is the way to go.

Some of the best resistance band core exercises include pallof presses, banded plank rows, lying knee tucks, and banded dead bugs. Adding these exercises into your training will lead to greater development of the 4 major muscles that make up your core. 

To make sure that you are getting the most out of your core training, I will share 10 of the best banded exercises to grow and develop your core, teach you how to perform the movements properly, and give you a sample workout that you can start implementing today.


Key Takeaways


  • Your core is composed of 4 main muscles that work together to flex, bend, and rotate your torso, while also providing the stability required to resist unwanted motion.

  • Training your core with a resistance band increases the level of difficulty of bodyweight core exercises, and increases muscle activation due to the constant tension that bands provide.

  • Having a variety of bands at your disposal increases the variety of core exercises you can perform and allows you to progress over time, which leads to better gains.

  • Anatomy of the Core Muscles

    core muscles

    Your core is a dominant group of muscles in your body that is constantly being utilized in all daily activities and the majority of your training. 

    Your core is a group of four muscles that are layered on top of one another. These muscles are the transverse abdominis (the deepest layer), internal oblique, external oblique, and rectus abdominis (the most superficial layer). 

    Having a strong core is so much more than having a six-pack. They help you maintain balance, brace in compound movements, and keep the rest of your body healthy and properly aligned. 

    Transverse Abdominis

    Your transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of all your core muscles, and it plays a crucial role in supporting and stabilizing your spine. 

    The transverse abdominis wraps around your spine like a cylinder, and it helps keep your organs in place. 

    Whenever you hear about people breathing deeply and bracing their core for a squat or deadlift, they are talking about activating their transverse abdominis. 

    This means that this muscle group is mainly trained by doing static, stability-type movements that require you to brace your torso to resist unwanted motion.

    Examples of exercises that target your TA are static banded dead bugs, or a pallof press (which I’ll explain later).

    Internal Oblique

    Your internal oblique is layered on top of the transverse abdominis, and below your external oblique. 

    It works in tandem with your external oblique to help you bend forwards, and it also helps your body to rotate sideways and bend sideways. 

    Your internal obliques are not typically visible from the outside, but they are targeted with exercises that involve rotation and bending.

    Examples of those exercises are side plank rows and banded russian twists. 

    External Oblique

    Your external oblique is layered on top of the internal oblique, and is below the rectus abdominis. 

    This muscle shares the same functions as the internal oblique, with the major difference being the direction of the muscle fibers. 

    Your internal oblique runs upward from your pelvis to your ribs, and your external obliques run in the opposite direction (more like putting your hands in your pockets). 

    When you are training your external obliques, you are also training your internal obliques; however, due to the difference in the direction of the muscle fibers, certain exercises do work your external obliques more efficiently. 

    An example of an exercise that targets the external obliques is the cable woodchoppers. 

    Rectus Abdominis

    Finally, your rectus abdominis make up the top layer of your core muscles. 

    These are more commonly referred to as the “six-pack” muscles, and they help stabilize and flex your trunk. 

    Your rectus abdominis helps you bend forward, lift your hips, and stabilize movement throughout your body while doing a variety of movements. 

    Your rectus abdominis can be trained with a variety of traditional core movements. 

    A few examples of ones we will discuss are banded sit-ups, banded lying knee tucks, and banded mountain climbers. 

    Benefits of Training the Core With Bands

    benefits of training the core with bands


    Here are five reasons why you should incorporate bands into your core training:

    1) Greater muscle contractions. One of the best benefits of any resistance band training is that bands offer more resistance as they stretch out, which creates a strength curve with band exercises that we don’t experience with free weights or cables. This is known as linear variable resistance (LVR).

      This means that the portions of your exercise where the band is more stretched will be harder. This can create an extra degree of difficulty and complexity to basic core exercises.

      For example, regular sit-ups may be too easy for you, but you’ll be surprised at how much harder the top portion of the exercise is with a band pulling against you.


      2) More resistant to injury. One of the best ways to prevent injuries when doing heavy compound movements (like squats and deadlifts) is to have a very strong core. Resistance band core exercises develop all layers of your core muscles and can help create better stability so that you can generate force in safer positions. 

        For example, it is incredibly hard to effectively train your transverse abdominis. This muscle gets the most stimulus from static movements like planks, so throwing in some banded stability work with banded dead bugs, pallof presses, and plank rows is a great way to challenge your muscles’ ability to stabilize your core as you move.


        3) Improved unilateral and dynamic performance. Many of the core exercises that I will discuss below are great for developing unilateral strength (strength on both sides of your body). This can help prevent imbalances, ensure that both sides of your body are working properly, and will help you with any sports performance goals you may want to achieve.


        4)  Adds exercise variety and encourages progression. For more experienced gym goers, simple core movements can get boring and progress is difficult to track. Banded core exercises are a great way to spice up mundane movements, and the bands themselves offer great opportunities for progressive overload to encourage progress over time. 

         

        5) Minimal equipment required. You can easily train all four major muscles of your core with only a band and your bodyweight. This is incredibly cheap and convenient and means you can train your core effectively even if you are working out at home or while traveling. 

          10 Best Core Exercises With Bands

          1. Pallof Presses

          Pallof presses are a great way to target your transverse abdominis. They help reinforce pelvic alignment, teach you how to brace your core in an upright position, and are a great way to learn how to avoid unwanted torso twisting while also reinforcing scapula control and stability.

           How To:

          • Grab a fairly light band (typically 20-60 lbs) and tie it to a solid anchor point at chest height. Your best anchor points will be a pole or one of the solid uprights on a rack, but anything that will remain rigid will do the job. 

          • Grab the band in your hands and step away from the anchor point. Be sure to stand far enough away from the anchor point that the band is taut at all times.

          • You should be standing perpendicular to the anchor point so that only one of your shoulders is pointing toward it, and the band is running across your body back to the pole. 

          • Your hands should be holding the band stacked upon one another. The hand that is on your side closer to the pole should be overtop of your opposite hand. 

          • Hold the band in your hands near your chest, and slowly extend your arms straight out away from your torso. 
          • Once your arms are fully locked out, hold the locked-out position for 1-2 seconds and then slowly return to your start position. 
          • Make sure to always keep your hands in line with the center of your torso. Do not let the band pull or twist you away from a perfectly even and center position. 

          Pro tip: I typically perform this movement standing in an athletic position (slight bend in the knees, upright torso, feet shoulder-width and parallel) but you can also do a pallof press in a half-kneeling position. This will help you get better at unilateral movements like lunges and split squats.

          2. Dead Bug with Static Band Holds

          Dead bugs are a staple core exercise that reinforces deep breathing, core strength, spinal alignment, and coordination of your hips and glutes with your core. 

          Adding a static band hold to this movement helps activate your obliques, transverse abdominis, and stabilizing muscles. This is a great exercise for people that experience drastic hip shifts when squatting. 

          How To:

          • Anchor the band to a sturdy anchor point, similar to how I described above for pallof presses, but only 6-12 inches off the ground. 
          • Lay down on the ground with your head pointing towards the anchor point. You should be far enough away from the anchor point that the band is taut when you hold it above your head. 
          • Grab the band in both hands and hold it in a taut position with locked-out arms. Your hands should be above your face. 
          • Raise both of your legs off the ground with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your shins should be parallel to the floor. 
          • Slowly straighten one leg to lower that foot towards the ground. 
          • Tap the heel of your foot on the ground, and return that leg to the start position. 
          • Do the same with your other leg. 
          • While moving your legs, keep your core engaged, your lower back pressed into the ground, and your arms locked out. 

          Pro tip: If you want to put more emphasis on your obliques, set up perpendicular to your anchor point so that the band is pulling across your body instead of straight back over your head. 

          3. Plank Band Rows

          Banded plank rows are a great way to spice up a classic isometric exercise (when your muscles contract without changing position). Adding a band continues to help develop the isometric core strength that a regular plank trains, but will also help develop more dynamic strength and control. 

          How To:

          • Anchor your band in the exact same place that you did for the banded deadbugs. 
          • Set your body up the same distance away from your anchor point as you did for the deadbugs, but this time you should be on your stomach with your head pointed towards the anchor point. 
          • Wrap the band around your hand. Be far enough away that the band stays taut throughout the whole movement. 
          • Get into your normal plank position. This can be on your hands or elbows. Your main focus should just be on keeping a tight core and a flat back. 
          • Extend your hand with the band towards the pole and slowly do a row into your body by pulling your elbow back toward your side. Do not allow your core or hips to twist or rotate. 

          Pro tip: focus more on the control and core contraction here than the weight of the band. Going too heavy will turn this exercise into a back and bicep training session when you are really trying to work your core. 

          4. Side Plank Band Rows

          This exercise is another plank variation that can help increase oblique strength and reinforce pelvic alignment. Adding the banded row gives the same type of advantages we see above with the standard plank row but with the side plank position providing more emphasis on the obliques.

          How To: 

          • Set up your band exactly the same as you did for the standard plank band rows. 
          • Place your body the same distance away from the anchor point, but this time get into a side plank with your body arranged perpendicular to the anchor point (chest facing the band). 
          • Get into your side plank and grab the band with your arm that is not on the ground. 
          • Do a normal row and focus on keeping your body stable. Do not allow your hips or torso to move with your arm. 

          Pro tip: if you feel unstable and wobbly, focus on driving your elbow through the floor to create more tension and coordinate your breath with your movement. Try exhaling as you row the band toward you and inhaling as you return to the start position. 

          5. Banded Woodchoppers

          This is a great rotational core exercise that can be done from a variety of angles to develop a wide range of rotational core strength. Woodchoppers mainly focus on your internal and external obliques, but will also help you develop better balance and stability. 

          How To:

          • Anchor your band overhead so that it’s higher than eye level. 
          • Stand facing perpendicular to the anchor point.
          • Hold the band in your hands as you did for a pallof press, and make sure the band is tight when your arm is straight. 
          • Without bending your arms, rotate your torso at your hips by squeezing your glutes and contracting your core to rotate away from the anchor point.
          • Finish with the band now pulled across your body to your hip with your arms straight, and your core flexed. It is fine to pivot your feet slightly. 

          Pro tip: for maximum development of your core muscles, do 3 variations of the woodchop. Go from middle to middle (with the band set up at chest level), from high to low (described above), and from low to high (low anchor point and finish above your shoulder).

          6. Banded Russian Twists

          This is another great rotational exercise and an awesome twist (hah) on a classic oblique exercise. Adding the band to your Russian twists is a great way to increase the difficulty of the movement and add greater tension on the obliques to rotate against. 

          How To:

          • Anchor your band at a similar height that you would for a banded plank row. 
          • Assume your normal Russian twist position with the anchor point off to your side. Be far enough away so that the band is taut when you are holding it in your lap. 
          • Hold the band with a double overhand grip. 
          • Sit with your feet together, and lean back slightly with your upper body. 
          • Raise your feet off the ground slightly, with your knees tucked. 
          • Perform a normal Russian twist with the band pulling against your body. You should be rotating the band away from your anchor point while mainly rotating only with your upper body and keeping your lower body stable.
          • Switch sides and repeat.

          Pro tip: keep your arms straight and rotate mainly with your trunk. To increase the tension, set up further away from the anchor point. To decrease tension, set up closer to the anchor point.

          7. Banded Sit Ups

          Banded sit-ups are a great variation of a traditional crunching movement. This will have you perform a sit-up while the band is trying to pull you backward, which is a great way to target your rectus abdominis and feel a greater contraction at the top of the rep. 

          How To:

          • Use a thicker band than some of the movements we have discussed so far (green or black). 
          • Anchor the band at a similar height that you would for your plank rows or dead bugs. 
          • Sit with your back to the anchor point and loop the band up over your head and around your rib cage. 
          • Be far enough away from the anchor point so that the band is fairly taut at the top of a sit-up. 
          • Starting in the top position, slowly lower yourself down to the bottom of your sit-up. 
          • Do not wait down there for long. Immediately contract your abs and return to the start position. 

          Pro tip: if you want to really feel the burn, pause your situp halfway to the top. While doing this, you should feel your abs actively contracting and fighting against both the band and gravity, which want to pull your shoulders back down to the floor. 

          8. Banded Lying Knee Tucks

          The lying knee tuck is a classic exercise to target the lower portion of your rectus abdominis. Adding a resistance band increases the tension against your abs and hip flexors, and will result in a better squeeze at the top of the movement. 

          How To:

          • Set up your band on your anchor point at the same low position discussed above. 
          • Place your body about as far away from the anchor point as you did when doing a banded plank row, but this time you should be on your back with your feet closest to the anchor point. 
          • Loop the band around the tops of your feet. Making sure to keep your ankles flexed and your toes pointed toward the ceiling.
          • Slowly bring both of your feet in so that you are tucking your knees into your chest. 
          • Pause briefly with your knees pulled into your chest, and then slowly straighten back out to your start position. 

          Pro tip: do not allow your lower back to arch. Instead, focus on pushing it into the floor as your feet move out and pull the band in. 

          9. Kneeling Band Crunches

          This cable-crunch lookalike is a great alternative when you don’t have access to cables. All you need for this cable alternative is a band and a high point to anchor it. 

          How To:

          • Anchor your band to a spot high above you that you can kneel directly under. Ideally, this will be a pull-up bar or another sturdy support beam. 
          • Kneel under the band and grab it in both of your hands. 
          • Don’t wrap the band in front of your neck. Instead, hold it evenly in both hands and place the slacked portion of the band that is in between your hands behind your head. 
          • Start in a kneeling position with your torso braced and your hips slightly back. 
          • Slowly crunch down. Think of trying to get your elbows to your knees, but make sure to initiate the movement with your core and not with your arms. 
          • Pause at the bottom with a good core contraction, and then return to your start position. 

          Pro tip: be sure not to let your lower back go into full extension (arching) at the top. Instead, focus on keeping your core engaged throughout the entire movement. 

          10. Banded Pullovers

          This exercise is great for targeting your serratus anterior, which is a lesser-known portion of your core that can also be lumped in with your lower chest. Your serratus muscle is located near your ribs, above your obliques, and often looks like the gills of a fish when an athlete is particularly shredded. 

          The classic dumbbell pullover has long been used for torso gains, and in my opinion, the banded pullover levels up the intensity and tension that this classic exercise can give. 

          How To

          • To start, you will need a stable anchor point that is only 6-12 inches off of the ground, and a bench or other elevated surface to lay down on. 

          • Anchor your band to the pole or rack in a very low position, only slightly above the ground. 

          • Place your bench far enough away from the anchor point so that the band is taut when stretched to reach the bench. 

          • Lay down on the bench with your head closest to the anchor point. 

          • Hold the band in both of your hands straight above your chest and shoulders. The band should be pulling back over your head, towards the anchor point. 

          • Slowly let the band pull back over your head. Keep your elbows straight and try to focus on the stretch in your lats, chest, and serratus. 

          • Pause once your hands have been pulled by the band so far that they are in line with, or slightly behind, your head. The band should still be taut. 

          • Initiate the pull back up to the start position. Keep the tension in your chest by keeping your arms straight and your back tight. 

          • Perform 3 sets of 15-20 reps. 

          Pro tip: Do not try and move too quickly in this exercise. Keeping a slow, steady, and controlled pace will ensure you activate your core and lower chest.

          Sample Core Workout Routine With Bands

          Now that you’re familiar with the best banded core exercises, it’s time to combine them into a program,

          Here is an effective resistance band core routine that you can do with some of the above exercises:

          Exercise

          Sets

          Reps

          Rest

          Notes

          Kneeling Band Crunches

          4

          15-20

          90 seconds

          Squeeze elbows to knees at the bottom of every rep

          Banded Lying Knee Tucks

          3-4

          10-12

          60-90 seconds

          Squeeze your core to get your tailbone off the ground at the top of every rep.

          Dead Bugs with Static Band Hold

          3

          8 per leg

          60-90 seconds

          Don’t allow the band to move from above your chest. 

          Banded Russian Twists

          2

          10-12 per side

          60 seconds

          After your second set, drop the band and do a burnout bodyweight set.

          Banded Pallof Press

          2

          15-20

          90 seconds

          Do these slow and controlled. Do not allow your trunk to rotate, and pause at full extension of every rep.

          Note that I did not include all 10 exercises. This is because some of them are very similar and target the core in a similar manner. 

          It would be redundant to perform all of them on the same day, and they are better viewed as options that you can swap in and out depending on your training preferences. 

          Best Bands For Training Your Core

          When looking to incorporate banded exercises into your core training, I highly recommend purchasing multiple bands so that you have different levels of resistance to choose from. 

          This will be the best way to make sure you are properly equipped as you get stronger, and allow you to perform a variety of movements that require different levels of resistance.

          SHOP MILITARY RESISTANCE BAND SET

          The Gymreapers Military Resistance Band Set is a great full set of resistance bands. The set comes with bands that range in resistance from 20-150 lbs to satisfy every need possible for adding banded training exercises into your program. 

           

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